Joseki repertoire for mid-kyu players

  Difficulty: Advanced   Keywords: Opening, Joseki

These are recommendations to get started with joseki study.

The main corner openings in modern go are the 4-4 point and 3-4 point: concentrate on those. An adequate result with the 3-5 point and 4-5 point can be had by invading at the 3-3 point for life (3-5 point 3-3 approach, 4-5 point 3-3 invasion). Against the 3-3 point, the shoulderhit at 4-4 is usually enough.

4-4 point

Normal approach  

The ordinary approach at B1 is typically good enough. In actual positions, the choice between B1 and a is worth thinking about.

Prefer the open side  

The presence of white+circle should make Black prefer to approach on the 'open' side - from outside White's framework.

Under immediate pressure  

If Black plays on the other side, White has an immediate chance to attack with W2. This makes white+circle work well. This is worse for Black unless he has a way to counter-attack against white+circle.

To study the correct use of W2, see the diagonal attachment path.

Be constructive  

If Black can build a framework himself, that should determine the direction. Here B1 and B3 develop a framework based on black+circle.

B3 could also be at a, but playing on the third line is easier for a kyu player to understand.

Not constructive  

The joseki used by Black here is the other major one to study. But in this case the feeling is negative.

It is better to play B1 at W2. White cannot take the whole side easily. (You will often see dan players using joseki this way; but it doesn't mean that's good. See more at closed side - closed mind.)

Invade after a pincer  

If White plays a pincer, for example with W2, B3 to make life in the corner is rarely bad.[1]

3-4 point

Low approach  

Approaching the corner stone on the third line is the classical play. These days the fourth line approach is used at least as often; but this is still a good play aiming to contest territory and make life.

No problem for Black  

White can play simply and safely with W2, but then B3 is certainly good enough, to make a base. [2]

HolIgor: This position is questionable in my opinion. Is it worth it to play komoku if the result is this plain? Ishida recommends one to play W2 in the situation when the opponent (Black) has thickness in the lower part of the board and W2 is directed there to erase it.

Otherwise White has to choose a move that creates some pressure on the black stone, like the Shusaku kosumi, for example. The continuation may be as follows:

Shusaku kosumi  

W6 is a cautious move that protects agains cuts. If B3 plays the two-space extension, then his stone would be too close to the pillar.

Playing B3 as in the diagram invites an invasion at a, though... Which is fun to play out and check what is the result.

Bill: W4 is normally bad, making B3 the ideal extension.

Charles Matthews NB that Black's extensions to b and to c are used by top players, so that this position isn't really so simple.

Of course, I don't recommend that White simply extends. The point of the diagram is to introduce the idea that normally this isn't enough for White.[3]

But it is also not enough to recommend that people read Ishida. And even to play the Shusaku kosumi correctly requires some strength.


A pincer such as W2 is better for White in most positions. There can be many variations now.

Play 3-3 to settle  

Now B3 is a reasonable idea, with any pincer.

After W4, B5 creates miai at a and b (so if White a now, Black plays counter-atari at b rather than connecting). This is a basic idea to settle a group here.

Icepick asks: What kind of continuation results from this?

Possible continuation  

Am I on the right track here? If so, please explain, it doesn't look like Black benefits as much as White.

Charles Matthews Yes, see the counter-atari page.

High approach  

For the high approach, this sequence is recommended for both sides.


Rich: This is confusing for (at least some of) us mid-level kyus.

When one begins (>20k) and plays lots of handicap games, that 3-3 invasion always seems unfair, stealing points away; one even uses it oneself with a guilty pleasure at cheating those 30 points away.

Then one learns more, and understands a little about the power of the influence the invadee gains, and it gets avoided for most cases; a lot of advice is not to use it except in (e.g. Kageyama's Fundamentals) 'special circumstances'. So now I rarely use it unless it's clear that the opponent will be overconcentrated, against (say) double wings.

Now it says that the 3-3 invasion is rarely bad as early on as settling the joseki! What am I missing? Does the included aji of the approach stone make all the difference?

Confused: I think, the statement that the 3-3 invasion is rarely bad is tightly linked to the pincer in this case. The matching diagramm is also labeled Invade after a pincer.

Charles Yes, having B1 there makes a big difference in the final result:

  • Black will be less completely shut in on the left side


  • the B1 stone will remain there, not completely captured.

In most of the common lines (3-3 point invasion and 4-4 point low approach one-space low pincer) Black will end in sente - which is the other main thing you'd look at to compare the results. (Not all, though.)

BobMcGuigan: This discussion about the 3-3 invasion is further evidence that virtually nothing is automatic in joseki. I'm sure it has been pointed out elsewhere that it is incorrect to think of joseki as a way to avoid thinking about what you are doing. In particular the choice of joseki (e.g. 3-3 invasion vs. not) needs thought and depends on the position on the board. When he cautioned against playing the 3-3 invasion Kageyama was probably concerned with people who don't think about the issue of joseki choice but play them automatically.

Rich: Thanks for the comments. I wholeheartedly agree about not automatically clipping through joseki; my confusion was over whether or not this was an equal result.

There are a couple such joseki that I find it hard to convince myself of; this is wholly due to my lack of understanding, and this sort of clarification helps me to revise my assessments of strengths and weaknesses.

Charles The fact that this page attracted all sorts of dan-level comments very shortly after posting shows how wrong it is to slim down the discussion, beyond a certain point.


Bill: B3 is too close, as a rule. I would not call it joseki.

Black overconcentrated  

Charles Matthews There is an example where Hashimoto Utaro plays it, so it's not impossible. Extending one line further to a is safe enough since Black's kikashi starting at b are available in any fight.


For about a decade, pros have been playing W3 here directly, without the slide to a.

This has to be about the whole-board position. Locally speaking Black can make White over-concentrated in the same way; but also stronger. Therefore I feel that this isn't quite a clear-cut discussion


Pro continuation  

Footnote With best play, Black should react more forcefully, anyway. B1 to B5 are from pro games, and then B7 is safe but optional (White at B7, Black a ko).

Charles Matthews

Joseki repertoire for mid-kyu players last edited by tapir on February 17, 2011 - 21:00
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